People consider pets as part of the family so it’s important for community associations to embrace that and document pet policies to ensure a positive and productive relationship for all.
Community associations should establish pet policies that are:
Reasonable. Associations need rules that are clear, well-defined, and reasonable. Few people will comply with a rule that’s unreasonable, and few courts will support efforts to enforce it.
Serve a purpose. A rule specifying that dogs must be leashed serves an obvious purpose, but a rule specifying how long that leash may be does not.
Consistent with governing documents and state statutes. Some states do not allow associations to ban dogs. Such a rule would be invalid.
Enforceable. Associations would probably find it challenging to enforce rules requiring owners to keep their dogs clean or their cats indoors.
Acceptable to homeowners. Everyone agrees that picking up after a pet is a must. Few are likely to agree to carry their pets through the hallways and lobby to ensure against accidents on the carpet.
The Humane Society of the United States also shares a few tips on crafting community pet-friendly policies:
❚ Consider how many pets per resident are reasonable when determining which species to allow. Pets are often happier living in pairs, so don’t summarily restrict residents to only one pet per household.
❚ Include restrictions such as “pets shall not be kept, bred, or used for any commercial purpose” and provisions that all cats, dogs, rabbits, and ferrets must by spayed or neutered by six months of age “unless the procedure is deemed medically unsafe by a veterinarian.”
❚ Spell out that residents are responsible for the pets of their guests and those pets are subject to the same restrictions as resident pets.
❚ When it comes to most infractions, it’s best to first try to discuss the issue “in a neighborly fashion with the pet caregiver” with hopes of compliance.
❚ If the complaint isn’t resolved, give the pet parent written notice of the violation and spell out next steps per your declaration or pet rules.
>> Find more detailed guidance on creating pet rules in Pet Policies: How Community Associations Maintain Peace and Harmony.
Pamela Babcock, a writer and editor in the New York City area, contributed to this article